American whalers left rock engravings on north Australian coast in 1840s

A team of archaeologists from The University of Western Australia working with Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation and mining company Rio Tinto have discovered that Indigenous people were not the only ones to leave their mark in the Dampier Archipelago.

American whalers left rock engravings on north Australian coast in 1840s
Colour filters bring out the inscriptions left by the crew of the American whaling ship Connecticut
on a rock on Rosemary Island [Credit: Alistair Paterson]

Archaeologists working across the archipelago to document Aboriginal habitation and long-term creation of ancient rock art have found evidence that the area was visited by the whale ships Connecticut (1842) and Delta (1849), with crew members documenting their respective voyages to the other side of the world from their home ports in the north-eastern US.
Lead author Professor Alistair Paterson, from UWA’s Centre for Rock Art Research and Management, said whaling of the ‘New Holland Ground’ between the Indian and Southern Oceans was an overlooked aspect of early north-west Australian contact history.

“Throughout the 19th century American, British, French and colonial Australian whaling ships plied these waters. American vessels were successful at a time when the British colony at Swan River was young (founded in 1829),” Professor Paterson said.

American whalers left rock engravings on north Australian coast in 1840s
Archaeologists believe the etchings were made in the rocks while crew members looked for whales
[Credit: Alistair Paterson]

Whaleships followed migrating herds of humpback whales along the coast and fished the offshore grounds for sperm whales, also undertaking ship-based bay whaling, anchoring in protected bays for up to three months. It was likely that the ships’ crew members shared knowledge about safe anchorages, hazards and resources.
The discoveries are detailed in a research paper published n the journal Antiquity, asthe earliest report of North American whalers’ inscriptions discovered anywhere in Australia.

The Dampier Archipelago represents one of Australia’s most significant heritage sites and one of the world’s largest rock art complexes. Located about 1550km north of Perth, near the Pilbara mining town of Karratha, the National Heritage-listed archipelago comprises 42 islands as well as the Burrup Peninsula which is home to an estimated one million Indigenous rock carvings.

American whalers left rock engravings on north Australian coast in 1840s
The carvings were discovered on Rosemary and West Lewis islands, off WA’s Pilbara coast
[Credit: Alistair Paterson]

Little is known about activity in north-west Australia before the arrival of pastoralists and pearlers in the 1860s and the subsequent, infamous, ‘Flying Foam Massacre’ of the Yaburara people in 1868.

Project leader Professor Jo McDonald said the research highlighted the activities of American whalers in the Dampier Archipelago.

“It shines a light on a brief period when Indigenous people and visiting whalers shared the same territory without obvious major conflict,” Professor McDonald said.

“The whaling inscriptions are both a rare example of maritime inscriptions on rock, and represent the only tangible evidence of this earliest phase of white colonisation of the Australian North West so far discovered.”

Archaeologists working on islands on Australia’s remote north-west coast have discovered engravings left by 

whalers crews in the 1840s [Credit: Patrick Morrison, Centre for Rock Art Research and Management, 

University of Western Australia/ABC]

The authors suggest that the placement of the Delta and Connecticut inscriptions on already richly decorated rock surfaces illustrated a deliberate process of selection, which attempted to engage with the Aboriginal carvings and, indirectly, the Yaburara people themselves.

“There is no other historical or archaeological evidence for contact between the whalers and the Yaburara, making these inscriptions especially valuable,” Professor Paterson said. The dated engravings were also potentially of use in future rock art dating studies, he said.

The research is part of a larger Australian Research Council (ARC) project in partnership with the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation (representing traditional custodians the Ngarluma-Yindjibarndi, the Yaburara, the Mardudhunera and Won-goo-tt-oo), and industry partner Rio Tinto.

Source: University of Western Australia [February 18, 2019]



2019 February 18 Dragon Aurora over Iceland Image Credit &…

See Explanation. Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

2019 February 18

Dragon Aurora over Iceland
Image Credit & Copyright: Jingyi Zhang & Wang Zheng

Explanation: Have you ever seen a dragon in the sky? Although real flying dragons don’t exist, a huge dragon-shaped aurora developed in the sky over Iceland earlier this month. The aurora was caused by a hole in the Sun’s corona that expelled charged particles into a solar wind that followed a changing interplanetary magnetic field to Earth’s magnetosphere. As some of those particles then struck Earth’s atmosphere, they excited atoms which subsequently emitted light: aurora. This iconic display was so enthralling that the photographer’s mother ran out to see it and was captured in the foreground. No sunspots have appeared on the Sun so far in February, making the multiple days of picturesque auroral activity this month somewhat surprising.

∞ Source:

Captioned Image Spotlight (18 Feb 2019): Almost Like WaterThis…

Captioned Image Spotlight (18 Feb 2019): Almost Like Water

This image in Athabasca Valles shows lava flows originating from Elysium Mons to the northwest. A Context Camera image shows the lava flowed from the northwest to the southeast, diverting around obstacles as it settled. (The flow is outlined in blue with the flow direction shown in yellow, and the approximate location of the HiRISE image is represented by a white rectangle.)

The lava appears to have flowed smoothly around obstructions, almost like water, forming streamlined islands. In the southern part of this image, a  branch of the flow diverts around a small crater, and eventually rejoins the main part of the flow. Irregular-shaped ring structures appear on the northern end and are related to the volcanic activity that formed the flows.

We also see a dense cluster of secondary craters that formed when material ejected from Corinto Crater (to the northwest) impacted the surface at high speed. At full-resolution, this terrain has the distinctive appearance of a field of numerous, small and closely-spaced craters.

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona